Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crescent Bay

Chapter 2 Finale
Day 1, Summer Camp revisited - Boris

Here we are again! Back where we first came together as a group. We will have this week, then we will be off to embark on more wondrous adventures. There were times when I had doubts, as I'm sure the others did, that we would get back together as we had promised each other one year ago at graduation.

As I look at each of them now, I still see the awkward teens that disembarked from the buses that chilly morning 5 years ago. Each of us stood with our like peers (cliques, if you will), not necessarily as friends, but as familiar faces among the small sea of unfamiliar faces. I was perhaps luckier than most in having my brother Axel and cousin Kale, also at the camp. Come to think of it, they were mere familiar faces, also. Axel was all mean and macho; and having lost his mother just a few short years before summer camp, left Kale traumatized. I preferred the solitude of my world of bytes, calculations and coding. I was most happy there.

Until that summer when the bond between these five awkward teens would begin to solidify. Being thrown together by fate, we would come to respect one another. That respect would grow into genuine friendship. The kind that will withstand the tides of time.

I know I should go talk with my friends and catch up on the past year, but I can't help feeling content to just sit here and watch them and reflect on our years together. Good times, bad times, our times. We were there for each other when it counted the most. I feel safe here, with my dearest friends. I AM safe here.

As I watch, a salty droplet slips from my eye, and begins its slow course down my cheek, only to slip to the ground and fade away. Stormy is the first to notice. She comes over and ever so gently takes the droplet from my cheek and softly kisses where it had been. Molly, Ruby and Tony look after Stormy and begin to smile as they see us begin to embrace. Within moments we are all entangled in a group hug. We clung to each other for what seemed like an eternity.

As I looked from one to the others, it was as if an unspoken agreement was made to enjoy what was left of the day. Tony and I made our way to the grill, as the ladies began to set the table. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, after which we played a little volleyball to ward off the sleepiness and combat the calories. I so wanted to take a nap, but Tony and Molly would not hear of it. If there was any awkwardness between them, they did not show it today.

We sat out near the pond as the sun made its slow trek across the sky. We all donned jackets as the chill of the evening air was beginning to settle in.

I told them of my time in China and of Jing and her brother Mao. I recounted (what I could at any rate) about the Kahdra and how Tony had suggested my services to his superiors. And finally, as a lump began to form in my throat, of the day Mao arrived with Ning and the heart-wrenching realization that Jing was gone. I don't think Ruby, my sister-in-law, was aware of many of the details. Condolences were made as more hugs were shared. I was allowed to prattle on about my year, as if each of the others wanted their own place and time to relate their tales of adventure.

We gathered around the fire pit once more, as we did those many years ago. As the sun slipped from the sky, the stars began to appear one by one, their reflections dancing on the water of the pond. Lightning beetles began to do there dance of light near the water. The Japanese beetles began their rhythmic "chirping."

Perhaps we should have left hours ago. Ruby has her babies. Molly and Tony haven't seen family in some time. Stormy had Sunny and her parents to tend to. I don't think any one of us wanted to be the first to go. Remaining here, safe, together felt right. Knowing it had to be done, I finally broke the spell, suggesting we call it a night, as we have plans for the next day.

Day 2, Back to School - Molly

Much like the summer camp, the school was a special place for the five of us. Camp may have brought us together, but school probably bound us together.

Stormy, Ruby and I were sitting in the bleachers watching Boris and Tony toss a football. As Boris fumbled a hard pass from Tony, I thought about what he told us about Jing the night before. Living in France, I felt like I was missing so much of my friends' lives.

Next to me, Ruby was restless. In another time I would have seen her anxiety as a response to too many people - even if it was just the five of us. A loner to the core, I couldn't fathom how she had married and had an instant family in the short year since we'd graduated.

My thoughts were interrupted by Stormy jabbing me in the arm. "Well?" she asked as if I had missed a question.

"Well what?" I asked absently rubbing my arm where she'd poked me.

"How are things with Colin?" Stormy asked impatiently.

"Wait! Who's Colin?" Ruby asked.

"Colin is the extremely handsome, blond Brit that Molly is crushing on." Stormy answered a little too loudly. I glanced over at Tony but if he'd heard, he didn't show it.

I nudged Stormy with my arm. "Keep your voice down." Then I sighed contently and told them both about the kiss before I left, what he'd said to me and my conflicted feelings.

Stormy was giving Ruby all the details about Sean and Colin when Boris took another ball to the head. I got up to relieve him. I was vaguely aware of Stormy and Ruby following me as far as the track. Boris gave up his post willingly and went to join Stormy and Ruby. The three of them began setting out the lunch from the basket as I looked over at Tony and grinned.

"Come on Starks, show me if you still have your game." I said playfully.

Tony smiled back - a smile that still managed to make me weak at the knees. "I don't know Gregory - you've been busy with that artsy stuff. You sure you can handle it?" he challenged.

"Bring it on!" I said with a wink and a smile. I stretched my arms a couple times and took my position.

Of to the side I could hear the others chatting quietly. I heard Ruby's voice above the others. "I'm not sure that's the best top to be playing football in." She and Stormy giggled and I grinned at them to let them know I'd heard.

To my credit, artsy stuff or not, I managed to catch every pass. At least until Ruby's concerns regarding my top proved to have some merit. Of course the ball fell out of Tony's hands mid-throw just as my top slipped and I suffered from a bit of a wardrobe malfuction. My first clue was not the chill as the wind blew as it should have been, but the look of shock on Tony's face and when he fumbled the ball he was already holding.

I looked down where he was staring and quickly righted the top. My cheeks flamed red and I glanced over at the others. Thankfully they all seemed to be engaged with the food and not paying much attention to us. Once I felt sure my top was secure, I looked over at Tony who still looked a little dumbfounded. I started to laugh and called out to him. "Game called on account of wardrobe malfunction!" I said. It brought him out of his shock and he laughed - perhaps a bit awkwardly - along with me.

We both walked back towards the others and as if out of habit, I hugged him before sitting. It was something we'd always done and should always do and yet I wondered if it was awkward for him now. As we ate, I told everyone about my time in France, my friends, my school - everything but the conflicted feelings I was having. I knew Stormy (and probably Ruby) would know that I was holding back but I wondered if Tony and Boris would notice.

I was just finishing up the story of my birthday and the tale of drunken Molly when we felt the first water drops on our heads. All of us looked up and noticed the darkening clouds. We were still scrambling to pack up the food and dishes, when the sky opened up and the rain dumped onto us by the bucket full. The five us ran, slipping in the quickly forming puddles, and laughing the whole way back to the cars.

Day 3, Beachin' It - Stormy

Hurriedly, I pulled in the parking space at Crescent Bay Beach, excited to meet with the gang again, taking full advantage of every moment with them while they're all in town. Molly, with an excited grin, climed out of the car, opened the back door to pull out our beach towels, radio, beach ball and food. I rolled all the windows up and went to go help her collect some of those things, as the breeze lightly whisked by, and the sun rays beamed down on us. Another car pulled up right next to me with an obnoxiously loud honk, scaring the crap out of me! I whirled around in fright to see Ruby behind the wheel laughing and pointing a taunting finger at me! Molly was laughing too as my heart still pitter-pattered from the sudden heart stopping noise. I laughed, but stuck my tongue out at Ruby as she got out of her car and walked towards me.

She gave me a hug and said "Aww Stormy, I'm sorry about that." she snickered, apparently still amused .

She went over to the trunk of her car to grab some things out of it while telling us, Axel will watch the babies for the moment until her mother gets there and care for them while he goes to work that evening.

"I'm glad everything worked out Ruby", I smiled.

She may not have been able to spend the whole day with us, because she wasn't sure if her mother would be able to swing by her house to take care of the triplets. I closed each door on my side of the car with the bump of my hip, and together as Molly closed her doors and Ruby slammed her trunk closed, we made our way across the sand looking for a spot to settle or to see if the guys have arrived yet. There were people here and there, not exactly crowed, but more than enough to weave around. I put my hand up above my eyes, blocking the sun to scan the area when someone shouted from the left of us.

"There they are!" Molly piped up, pointing awkwardly with her body and the belongings she was carrying.

Tony waved at us while he and Boris jogged happily toward us. They grabbed a few of the items we were carrying and we all trudged to the spot they set up for us.

"You girls brought everything but the kitchen sink!" laughed a teasing Tony.

I giggled a little and Molly said, "Okay wiseguy, next time you bring the entertainment, food and other things to make make our day more comfortable and fun!"

She took the beach ball and thew it at him. It bounced off his head, landed in the sand a few feet away and rolled on. Tony ran after it, then turned, running backwards, still towards the ball, playfully telling Molly, "Ohh! You're gonna to get it now!"

Tony retrieved the ball and ran towards us as Molly ran in the opposite direction screaming. Tony ran past us, face set like he had a football in his arms running for a touchdown. Boris and I laughed at them, then turned our attention on making room for all of us to sit and to be able to reach the food.

Ruby opened up a bag of chips, turned on the radio while she talked about her babies. After awhile, I stood up and told them I was going to wet my feet. They said their OK's as I walked toward the ocean. I thought about how It felt so right, so good to be with my friends. These four people, at one point of time I never knew, except for Molly. But I know fate has bound us together. I was soon distracted on how nice and warm the sand felt sliding through my toes as I walked on. At that very moment, from the corner of my eye, a good distance away, I caught sight of Tony having just tackled Molly over in the sand while he braced his fall with his knee, hand and elbow around her body, so as not to squish her. Her scream and laugh came to me in bits and peices as the wind carried her voice to and fro.

I could see Tony's lips moving but not able to hear anything, until the wind brought over, "I love you..." as the rest of his words were lost, carried away once again.

Then they were staring in each other's eyes, a silent communication between them, as if speaking telepathically to each other. I smiled, then cast my eyes over the ocean as he lowered his body a little closer to hers...

I came upon the cool wet sand, and a moment later the cold water rushed across my feet and swirled around my ankles, sending goose bumps up my arms before it went back toward the ocean. I walked on a little further, as the water swiftly came back a little more forceful, causing me to stumble back a couple steps, this time, swooshing around my calf. My teeth began to chatter from the extreme change in temperature my body had to adjust to. A few minutes later an arm went around my shoulders from my left, so I turned my head to see a sweet smile on Boris' face looking down at me. I stared back into his eyes that couldn't hide the pain, and loss he suffered. But amongst friends, he didn't have to. I smiled back at him and affectionately squeezed his arm and turned my head to my right. Ruby was standing beside me, gazing out over the ocean. I then grabbed both of their hands made them run deeper into the ocean with me. Soon, Molly and Tony joined us, still looking into each other's eyes, smilng. I'll have to ask Molly tomorrow what it all means.

Eventually we got hungry and went back to our resting spot, drying ourselves and grabbing paper plates and sandwiches Molly and I made at my house, and chips and fruit Ruby brought for us. The guys brought the drinks. There were cookies and a few other treats available as well, but as we feasted, we talked about everything and anything....because we can.

"Hey guys!" came a nice strong masculine voice.

I looked up to see Axel coming our way. Ruby put down her plate, jumped up and ran into his arms.

"Axel, I thought you were supposed to go into work tonight!" blurted a confused Ruby.

He explained to all of us as he and ruby released each other, that his boss didn't need him tonight, since there was a "change in plans".

"Grab a plate and eat with us Axel! The girls brought enough food to feed everyone here at the beach!" grinned Boris.

We all chuckled and talked while listening to the radio. When night rolled in, Boris and Axel lit the wood for a bonfire, as the rest of us got up to dance. A few other people on the beach came by and danced along with us. Cosmo, an old classmate of mine happened to be one of them, and wow, he's hawt! We all had so much fun!

I love them....

Day 4, Fireworks in the Park - Tony

As I board the plane returning home it was the first time I felt relaxed in quite some time. I looked at my ticket for my seating arrangement a window seat; I gently placed my jacket on the back of my chair relaxed into my seat and looked out the window.

As I looked out the window I started to daydream what everyone was doing at home. I pictured Ruby as wild as ever, staying out at all hours of the night into the early morning, Stormy would be out somewhere fishing, and Boris for some reason I see as a school teacher at CB high, Molly..? Did Molly come home for the summer? Maybe she is dating someone by now, or even engaged I thought as I gently fell to sleep.

I arrived home at ten O’clock that night to an empty house, my father off working no doubt, I could wait no longer to find out what everyone was doing. I picked up the phone and called Boris.

Tony: “hey man how you doing?”

Boris: “Tony!”

Tony: “Yea, its Tony I’m home, was calling to see what you been up to.”

I could hear a baby crying in the back ground, “Who’s crying?” I asked Boris, “It’s a long story, but I’ll give you all the details later” Boris explained.

As we caught up a little on the phone I was surprised to find out Ruby was married and Boris had a son. Boris later made plans for us all to meet-up at camp, the place where it all began. Exhausted I climbed into bed and fell asleep

The next morning I wondered if Molly every came home for the summer, I went over to see Molly but for some reason I could not make it to her door, I did not see a car in the driveway so I turned around to go home, then thought what the heck I’ll knock on the door.

As I approached the door for the second time, I lost my nerves again and walked away. I was heading home when I passed by Stormy’s house, to my surprise Stormy was standing outside. We chatted a bit, Stormy told me a little bit about her going to see Molly in France, I asked her if Molly came home for the summer, she informed me that Molly was home for the summer, although not home at the moment; she would be at Camp for Boris outing.

After going to the others outings I made plans of my own for the five of us to visit the park. It was a chill in the air that morning 56 degrees I believe, but it quickly warmed up as the sun rose into the sky, to a comfortable 82 degrees, I pack a nice lunch for us; I was not sure if it would be enough so I stopped at the store and got the biggest watermelon I could find.

I arrived at the park around noon, an hour before the event, to give myself some time to setup a spot for us, I could here someone scream out my name. “TONY!” Startled I turned to see Ruby with the biggest grin coming my way.

I stopped what I was doing and gave her the biggest hug I could muster up! “Look at this setting” Ruby sad with a big smile, I thought it was a complement until. “Why do men even try” she said laughing as she started to rearrange my setting. “Just like my husband, can’t do anything without me, good thing I got here early.” She said with a wink of the eye. Of course I let Ruby have her way and admit it was a much better job than what I had done.

I was telling Ruby how nice it looked when my phone rang,

Boris: “Tony its Boris, just calling to let you know we are on our way, Stormy had a flat tire so I’m picking her and Molly now.”

Tony: “Okay, I’m here with Ruby now; I’ll see you in a bit then.” “Don’t start without us baby” I heard Molly shout in the background just before Boris hung up the phone.

Ruby and I talked about her family and of course I had to ask what it was like having Boris as a brother-in-law. “Great, Boris is always there for me when it counts.” I could hear the pride in her voice as she explained her relationship with Boris.

As we talked Boris, Stormy and Molly arrived.

Stormy: “The setting looks great” I smiled as and turned toward Ruby who just winked at me, smiled, and said “I was just telling him the same thing.”

“Watermelon, I haven’t had watermelon in a long time” Stormy said while looking it. “let me cut you a piece.” I replied as I looked for a knife, “Oh no all I have is my army knife the watermelon is too thick for it; maybe I can cut circles into it, anyone have a bigger Knife?” I asked nervously.

Tony: “No?”

As everyone was looking at me, Boris smile and with a quick motion of his hand “Chop!” his hand was resting on top of the watermelon as it split into two even halve. Wow, I thought, I need to learn this.

Tony: “Dig in everyone.” We ate, talked, laughed and talked some more.

After lunch, we all had a foot race, Played catch, Boris and I had a quick sparing match after seeing his display with the watermelon; I knew I was not much of a match for him but I did learn a few moves. Boris and I laughed as we saw Molly, Stormy and Ruby playing jump rope. After awhile I turned on my radio and we all started to dance.

Later in the evening Ruby got a phone call, I think it was her husband as she said “I miss you too baby.” Stormy and Boris was deep into conversation, I could see Stormy hug Boris and a tear in his eye, I heard something about China as Boris bowed his head.

I looked at Molly as asked if she wanted to go for a walk.

Molly and I took a walk through the park hand-in-hand; we talked about the old days laughing at some of the things we did as teens, I know Molly and I were not back together as a couple; yet it was as though nothing had changed. At one point I put my arm around her small waist, we stopped, she turned into me looking up into my eyes, leaned her soft body against me and smiled. I stroked her hair back as she closed her eyes, as I moved in for the kiss; I heard Ruby’s voice “Tony, Molly you two get lost?” We pulled quickly away, laughed and headed back to the others.

It was good to be with my friends again, soon I forgot all about the military life. Although; I could not forget Molly’s mishap with her blouse while playing catch the a few days ago.

We sat and talked for a few more hours, Boris and Ruby’s cell phone kept going off, I knew they had responsibilities now with their family however; they found a way to stay a little longer.

As the sun began to set, I knew they could not stay much longer so I decided to light my fireworks early, while lighting the first one I held the stem in my hand as I struck the match “Ouch” I shouted as it burned my finger tips.

Molly: “let me see that, do it hurt much?” as she kissed the tips of my finger. “Here let me put something on that.” Molly said tenderly.

Boris: “You better let me light the rest of them” as he, Stormy and Ruby laughed and took over lighting the fireworks.

Molly and I found ourselves in each others arms. As the last of the fireworks were lit. “I think we need to talk” I whispered into her ear. “Call me you have the number” she said softly as the event came to an end.

Day 5, Home Sweet Home - Ruby

“Axel, what are you doing? Why are just sitting there, playing with the stupid game? I need you to help me get the girls ready. Can you give them a bath?” I was frantically trying to get the house in some semblance of order. Axel wasn’t being too big of a help. He had just “acquired” a new video game console and couldn’t get enough of it. Gah!! Boys and their toys!

“Honey, the house looks fine. Everything looks great. I will take care of the girls, don’t worry so much.” He turned off the game and walked over to me. He placed his arms around my waist and pulled me into an embrace. “You know, the kids are sleeping. We have a few minutes…you want to let off some steam?” he gave me a sly wink and kissed me. “No, we really shouldn’t, they’ll be here soo…” I wanted to finish but he stopped my train of thought with his kisses. At first, I just let myself be kissed and then I was kissing him back, kissing him almost furiously. I slipped my palms up his cheeks and the soft rasp of the stubble close to his skin was exquisite. I slid my arms around his neck, my open mouth on his, holding him and kissing him as hard I could. He began to unhook the buttons on my blouse until it fell at my feet. He then picked me up and carried me to our bedroom and laid me gently on the bed. I gave myself completely too him. Nothing mattered in that moment except him and I and the sweet love we were making.

When we had finished I just lay there for a few moments enjoying the peace and quiet. These moments are too few you must make the most of them when they arise. I was startled by voices in the living room. “Crap! They’re here!” I bolted out of bed and quickly looked for my shirt and realized in horror some of our clothes were littered up the stairs. “Quick get dressed!” I quickly threw on some clothes and smoothed my hair in place. “I knew this was a bad idea.” All the while Axel is just lying in a bed with that evil grin on his face. “Wipe that smirk off your face and come downstairs.”

I started walking towards the living room when I saw Molly and Stormy. They were grinning and giggling like a couple of silly girls. I proceeded to pick up the clothes lying on the stairs. All the while I could feel my face turning a bright red.

“Wow Ruby, your face matches your hair.” Molly said with a smirk. She and Stormy resumed their giggle fits. “We thought we would stop by early to help you set up before the boys got here, but I guess you were “busy” and didn’t hear us knocking.” Stormy said, through her smile.

“I am glad you’re here, Axel is only good at one thing and that is distracting me… not that that’s a bad thing.” I said with a wink. We all laughed at that and then hugged each other. “I could use the help. I need to set up the table for food and some games. Oh, this will be so much fun!” I hugged them both; it was going to be a good night. Molly and Stormy set out gathering the items needed to set up the tables and games.

“Everything looks great, thanks ladies.” I smiled. I really had some great friends, I am so thankful we have this opportunity to be together again. I went in the kitchen to make us some coffee; I thought we would need all the caffeine we could to stay up tonight.

We sat around the kitchen table and chatted. Molly told of her friends in France and gave me some more details bout Colin. “He sounds like a wonderful guy. I wish I could meet him. Handsome, sexy accent, it’s like something out of a movie.” Stormy talked about her trip with Molly to France. It sounded like they really had a great time. I love to hear Stormy talking about her fishing stories. She gives every detail such life. You feel like you are right there in the water with her. “Wow, Stormy all that fighting for a frog. I would have loved to see you knee deep in water, fighting with a frog.” I laughed loudly, probably a bit too loudly. We heard the babies start to cry. “What we can’t believe is you Ruby. Married with triplets all in one year!?” Molly was smiling as she spoke. “You really are blessed to have such a great family. Can we go up and see them?” “Yeah, Ruby let’s go, you woke them up anyway.” Stormy winked at me. “Yes, I’d love for you to meet them. They really are such good babies. They rarely cry and sleep a bit. Axel is a prince and always gets up with them. I couldn’t have asked for a greater man.”

I led them to the girls’ room as Axel was with Byron; Stormy went to go see him. I could hear her cooing and chatting with Axel. Molly went to Celia and just held her. She stopped crying instantly. It was really quiet sweet. “Well, I think she likes you Molly. You look so natural holding her.” I said stroking her soft, little cheek. “I think you will make an excellent mother.” Laughing Molly stated, “I need to figure out my own life before I start bringing a little one into it. But I would love to have a family some day. This just feels right.”

“She’s right Molly, you look beautiful holding her. Motherhood looks great on you.” Tony said peeking in the door.

“Tony!” I shrieked. “Where did you come from we didn’t hear you come in.” I rushed over and hugged him tightly. I still couldn’t get over how grown up he looked. I don’t know if it was the action he had seen overseas, or what but he looked good.

Molly looked up at the sound of his voice smiling. They made eye contact and suddenly the room got quiet. Even the babies were silenced. It was really quite odd. I stood there wondering, should I speak? I feel weird…there are too many people in this room. Molly quickly put Celia back in my arms and rushed out the door. I stood there with Tony and gave a weak smile. I was aware of some of the confliction between Molly and Tony, and now with Colin thrown in the mix. I didn’t know how much of it Tony was aware of. It wasn’t my place to say anything; I would leave that for Molly.

“Tony, I am glad you could make it. You look great as always.” I hugged him again. “Would you like to meet Leliana? I placed her in his arms and the look of fright was on his face. It made me laugh. Here was a man who had been through war and back look terrified to hold a little baby. It was really sweet; he soon relaxed once he realized she wouldn’t break too easily. “Oh Ruby. She is beautiful. So, you have twins?” I laughed, “You won’t believe it, but I have triplets. Byron, Axels’ little man is in the other room.” The look on Tony’s face was priceless. “You have been a busy woman this last year. Congratulations! Wow…I never would have figured you’d be the one with a family so fast.” He said thoughtfully. “I know…the loner gets her paybacks by having an immediate group for a family. What are the odds huh?” I smiled; it was nice being able to chat with Tony.

“Hey!! Where’s everybody at?!” Boris yelled from the front door.

“Hmm did no one close the door? Molly…Stormy…” I grinned. “You’d think they were born in a barn.” Tony and I giggled over my little joke. “Guess we should go meet him. You can stay up here as long as you like. Axel is around if the kids need anything. He promised to look after them tonight.”

I ran downstairs and there was Boris, he had a bouquet of flowers he handed to me. “Thanks, but what’s this for?” I took a whiff of their beautiful aroma. They were very pretty. “I just wanted to say ‘thanks’ for opening up your home so we could hang out here with your family.”

“They are gorgeous, but really not necessary. You guys are my family. I love you all so much.” I hugged Boris and soon Tony made his way downstairs. Boris and he hugged and clapped each other on the back. “It’s good to see you, man.” Boris said. “Thanks, can you believe Ruby’s got trips!” Tony shouted. We just burst out laughing; I guess it was as much of a surprise to him as it was to us.

“Well, I am so glad everyone could make it tonight.” I said to my friends. “I have some steak you boys can grill out back. There are sodas in the cooler. I’ll make coffee for anyone who wants some. I just want tonight be a nice relaxing night of being together as friends and family. I looked at each of them. They were one of the best parts of me.

Tony and Boris went outside to start cooking as we were all famished, while Stormy started a pot of coffee. Molly and I set out making the salad and setting the table. All the while the three of us just going on and on about clothes, boys and anything else that struck our fancy. “Oh, wow! Those steaks smell great Tony. Where’d you learn to BBQ like that?” Molly. “I can’t tell you that. It’s Top Secret, besides a magician never gives away his tricks.” He said with a wink. She playfully hit him and the shared a laugh.

Boris brought the food to the table and we began to serve ourselves. The camaraderie between us was so nice. It was like we had never been away from each other at all. Tony and Molly’s initial awkwardness seem to dissipate as they talked about France and her friends. Tony began to tell us of his weeks at Boot camp. It seemed like a hard life. I couldn’t imagine being away from my friends and family for months or even years at a time, no one really knowing if you are alright or where you are at a given time. This thought made even more proud of the decision Tony had made to join the Army. I looked him and the eye and I smiled. He smiled back and gave me a wink.

We finished dinner and I went to check on Axel and the kids. He was asleep in the chair with one of the girls in his lap. Truly one of the sweetest things I have seen. I picked up Leliana and placed her in her crib. I gently kissed Axel on the lips. His eyelids fluttered and soon he was looking at me with those sultry green eyes of his. “Honey, why don’t you come down and have something to eat, you must be starved after all your “activities” today.” I gave him a knowing wink and he joined the gang in the kitchen.

“Hey Axel!” Everyone chimed. Boris got up and gave him a hug, while Tony shook his hand. The boys talked about work, and how much money the other made. Gah! Why do guys care so much about that stuff? I’ll never understand men.

Meanwhile, Stormy set up the Monopoly Board we had sitting on the table and I got the Guga JoyToy. It came with a few fighting games I am sure the boys would be thrilled to kill each other in.

We all played a round of Monopoly that lasted a good two hours. Of course…who won? Boris had all properties from BoardWalk to Indiana Avenue. I don’t know how many times I was sent to jail. I jokingly added, “Who does this game think I am am, Axel?” I gave him a playful poke in the ribs and he shook his finger at me. All in good fun though. Tony wanted a re-match. He was sure he could win this time, but most of us were Monopoly-ed out. So we grabbed the video games. Luckily the game had five controllers we were able start an online game. I grabbed Halo and threw it in. We got online and quickly found some newbs who thought they could take us down. We had the Great Tony Stark on our side!

We wiped the board with them. Stormy kept “”accidentally killing me and taking all my stuff…I wonder how many “accidents” a person can suffer in this game. Molly had set herself up on a hillside nearby and just picked people off with her sniper rifle. It was great. She was our “bertha bad butt” and she knew it. It wasn’t long before the smack talking between our groups commenced. Oh then it was on, boys against the girls.

“Come on Starks! Let’s see if all that military training really paid off!” Molly was teasing him.

“You’re going to wish you stayed in your Artsy School, Gregory.” He winked at her.

Boris, Tony and Axel took a section and the girls and I took another. The object was to capture the other guys’ flag. Let the record show, I am not known for my stellar shooting. Give me Guitar Hero any day.

“Who keeps shooting me? You know, Stormy, “Friendly Fire” isn’t friendly.” I said as my character lay down in a pile of fake blood and dirt. I gave a small scowl and then laughed.

“Sorry Ruby.” Stormy snickered. She winked in my direction.

“It’s because I scared you at the beach huh?” I laughed “You looked too funny though.”

This progressed until the wee hours of the night.

Boris’s phone went off a few times. It seemed he was needed at home, but it was apparent he didn’t want to leave. Our time together was finally here and just as quickly gone again. His face was sad and forlorn, so I knew it was time to wrap things up.

The gang helped me clean up the place while Axel tended to the babies again.

We all retreated outside again. Under the moonlit sky we embraced. Tears were shed as we held hands. We didn’t want the night to end, but we knew we each had other responsibilities to tend to.

“I want to thank you guys for coming here tonight. It was a fabulous night of excitement and fun. I am sorry I hadn’t kept in better contact with you. I promise to do better.” I smiled through my tears.

“Awww Ruby, you always were the emotional one. It’s ok. Stuff happens it’s something we all need to work on. Thanks for having us here to meet your beautiful babies. You really are blessed.” Molly brushed my tears away and hugged me. She then went to stand by Tony. They took hands and looked each other in the eyes. I hoped they could work whatever they need to out and still remain good friends.

“I love you Ruby” Stormy hugged me. “I love you too Stormy. You are a great friend. Say “hello” to Sunny for me and your family. Anytime you want to come over my door is always open. I’d love to have each and every one of you again.”

Lastly, Boris gave me a hug. I could see the pain in his eyes. I wasn’t sure what the phone call was about, but I felt for him. I would be crushed if I ever lost Axel. I couldn’t imagine what Boris must be feeling. I whispered in his ear. “If you need anything, anything at all, you let us know. We are here for you. I love you Boris.” As a tear streamed down his face, he hugged me and whispered, “Thanks Ruby. You are a great woman. I love you too.”

I waved to all my friends as they got in their cars and drove away. Axel came outside and standing behind me, he hugged me. We stood there for a few moments, taking in the moon light. It was full tonight and it was beautiful. I turned around and looked into his eyes, eyes that always moved me. “I miss them already.” I started to weep. He placed his hands on my face and kissed my tears away. Just the feel of his lips calmed my anxieties. “You will see them again. I promise.”

I lay in bed reliving the nights’ events. Molly and Tony and their unrequited love, Stormy and her zest for life and Boris, his quiet strength all these things I will miss, but I will hold in my heart until I see them again.

End Chapter

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